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‘The Interview’ Looking at $3 Million-$4 Million at Box Office

Christmas shows selling out and weekend sales brisk at indie theaters playing the Sony comedy

Ticket sales for “The Interview” shot through the roof Wednesday at many of the roughly 300 independent theaters that will be showing the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy on Christmas Day, with many reporting sellouts and booming sales over the holiday period.

“All of our Thursday shows are sold out and the weekend sales look really strong too,” said Christian Parkes, chief brand officer at the Alamo Drafthouse chain, which is showing “The Interview” in all 19 of its theaters.

“It’s selling as well as any movie ever has, and it’s not just us. Sales have been terrific at all of the Arthouse Coalition theaters,” he said, referring to the group of small, independent theaters in which Sony is releasing the film.

The major theater chains have opted out of the Christmas release in a dispute over video-on-demand, after plans for a nationwide release were scuttled last week in the wake of terror threats from the hackers.

When it was set for a 3,000-location rollout, analysts projected an opening in the $20 million range for “The Interview.” Now that it will open in around 300 mainly smaller indie theaters, it is expected to take in between $3 million and $4 million over the four-day period.

The controversy over “The Interview” could ultimately help it expand it audience, Exhibitor Relations senior analysts Jeff Bock said. A solid showing could bring more theaters on board next weekend, though the major chains seem determined to hold out. Day-and-date digital releases of major studio movies is something they fought against for years, convinced that it will cut theater business.

“All the publicity around this film has likely broadened the number of people aware of it,” he said. “And a lot of them will be educated and socially conscious people who see this as a cause. They might come to see it, along with the college kids and stoners that it probably would have been limited to before all this happened.”

Meanwhile, movie fans began downloading “The Interview” in droves, after Sony announced an 11th-hour deal to distribute its controversial comedy on several online streaming sites on Wednesday morning.

Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft’s Xbox and a designated Sony site (www.seetheinterview.com) all began offering the film at the center of the hacking scandal for $5.99.

“Considering the incredibly challenging circumstances, we are extremely grateful to the people all over the country who came out to experience ‘The Interview’ on the first day of its unconventional release,” Rory Bruer, president Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures, said in a statement. “The audience reaction was fantastic – the limited release, in under 10% of the amount of theaters originally planned, featured numerous sell-outs and a first-day gross over $1 million.”